Merton, even after his untimely death, continues to fascinate not just the conventionally religious, but secular seekers who marvel at his blending radical detachment and passionate involvement into a unique and challenging life. And so books celebrating his life, analyzing his writings-vainly striving to capture his complexity--keep coming. Bailey, a Texas Baptist, wrote this as a dissertation on Merton's mysticism and later transformed it into this quite readable book. He's been indefatigable in his research and he has achieved a remarkable rapport with the whole mystical tradition of Catholicism. The book traces Merton's spiritual evolution chronologically; it becomes a workmanlike biography, focused on Merton's gradually maturing view of mysticism. But Bailey's scholarly thoroughness results in an overly academic style that somehow conflicts with the way Merton resists classification, or orderly progress. The book's painstaking presentation of Merton's thought will appeal more to serious students than those general readers who found his spiritual writing refreshingly unsentimental.